Texas Zero Tolerance
Texas Zero Tolerance
© Texas Zero Tolerance
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Stu Sendelbach - Father of 12-year-old Shelby Sendelbach, a 6th grade Katy ISD student who found herself arrested, charged with a misdemeanor, and sentenced to a 4 month stint in an alternative school (DAEP) for writing “I love Alex” in 3 inch block letters, a salutation to her boyfriend, on the school gym bleachers.

According to Katy Independent School District school officials Shelby had committed a heinous act that called for Shelby to be arrested, have charges filed against her, and a stiff alternative school punishment according to the state’s zero tolerance statutes for writing graffiti on school property.

After a national media firestorm, a clarification of the law by state representative Rob Eissler that school districts do have discretion in cases like Shelby’s the school backed off the alternative school placement and came up with a creative punishment that Stu Sendelbach felt was much more appropriate for his daughter’s offense.

Sumi Lough – Mother of 13-year old Christina Lough, an 8th grade Katy ISD middle school honor student whose daughter was punished for bringing a Korean pencil sharpener to school. When Ms. Lough was growing up in South Korea she used a traditional Korean pencil sharpener that all children there used: a 2-inch-long blade that folds into a small handle. While visiting Seoul, South Korea, she bought one of the sharpeners for her daughter to use at her school back in the U.S.

But what may be considered a routine item for schoolchildren in Korea was alarming enough in the Katy school district to get Ms. Lough’s daughter in deep trouble. School officials viewed it as a potential weapon. What Sumi Lough saw as part of her Korean heritage, school officials viewed in the same category as a knife, razor, or box cutter.

Christina Lough who was a straight-A student, president of the student council and honor society was punished after a teacher saw the sharpener in class. Christina’s pencil sharpener came to the teacher's attention after another student borrowed it, used it to sharpen a pencil and left it on a desk. The teacher then unilaterally determined that the device was illicit, and proceeded to write up a disciplinary notice form despite Christina's attempt to explain that it was not a weapon.

Katy ISD officials said they had no choice but to follow their zero-tolerance policy to the letter that required Christina to be punished.

In addition to being ordered to attend a special disciplinary class for seven days, Christina was removed as president of the student council and honor society.

An innocent mistake on Christina’s part was cause enough for supposedly sane adults to react as if it was the second coming of the 911 hijackers.

Kathy Karnezis – Mother of 18-year-old Pavlos Karnezis a Fort Bend ISD senior honors student who was arrested, expelled, and sent to a juvenile boot camp for bringing a pocketknife to school.

Pavlos had an after school job the day of the incident that required a pocketknife. Pavlos had put his pocketknife in his backpack as an afterthought to be used for his after school job that day. A friend approached Pavlos that day at school while they were in physics class with a problem ~ How to keep his pants up. Figuring he could cut string from the morning's lab project for a makeshift belt, the saggy-bottomed boy asked to borrow Pavlos’s pocketknife. A minute or so passed, and the physics teacher, wondered aloud if anyone had scissors to lend to cut the string. Pavlos’s friend then presented the knife he had borrowed from Pavlos to the teacher. The teacher snatched away the knife, walked it to the front of the room and finished the class, then escorted both boys to the principal’s office. Pavlos tried to explain that he hadn’t threatened anybody that he would never threaten anybody, but it didn't matter. The physics teacher confirmed this assertion in a written statement to the principal: "The students had no intention of using the knife other than the intended use of cutting the string." 

The principal had Pavlos arrested and taken to the Fort Bend County jail where he was held for 25 hours while being housed with inmates charged with drug dealing and attempted murder. Mrs. Karnezis was not notified of her son's arrest until Pavlos was already on his way to jail.

Pavlos was expelled from his school for 4 months and sent to a juvenile boot camp (JJAEP) where his head was shaved. Pavlos’s parents eventually withdrew him from the boot camp and sent him to private school until he won his appeal with the school board allowing him to return to school some 4 months later.. Kathy Karnezis lost 20 lbs during the ordeal due to the mental anguish that was inflicted on her and her son. The Karnezis’s spent $6,000 on attorney fees and $2,700 for private school even though the school board eventually exonerated their son. The criminal charges against Pavlos were dropped.

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Zero Tolerance - Zero Sense
by Eddie Evans, Co-Director - Texas Zero Tolerance